The Ins and Outs of Laughing Gas

DKM pedo

What IS laughing gas, you ask?   Well, technically it is called nitrous oxide, is a colorless, virtually scentless, non-flammable gas that can be used in pediatric dentistry as an adjunct to treatment.  As pediatric dentists, our goal is to get the recommended treatment done while also making sure our patients are as comfortable as possible.  Now, although this may seem like a relatively straightforward task, with some patients, we need a little help to achieve these goals.  Nitrous oxide can not only help decrease anxiety, but it can help decrease the perception of pain and increase tolerance for longer appointments.  As you can imagine, getting a four year old to sit still for 30 minutes can be challenging, but with the aid of nitrous oxide, this is often achievable.  Furthermore, nitrous oxide can help reduce your child’s gag reflex, which is obviously helpful when working in (a very small) oral cavity.  A common misconception is that laughing gas will put your child to sleep.  Sometimes children will fall asleep (especially if it is during nap time) but nitrous oxide is NOT a deep sedative and thus, your child will likely be awake and able to talk the entire appointment.  

Parents know their children best, so if you feel your child will need nitrous oxide to have his treatment (fillings, extractions etc.) completed, please feel free to mention it to their doctor.  If you and your doctor mutually decide that nitrous oxide is a good option, it is recommended that your child avoid eating a heavy meal within 2 hours of their appointment as one of the rare side effects of laughing gas is nausea and vomiting (0.5-1.2%).  A light meal (eg. toast, cereal) is recommended instead.  

If you have any further questions with regards to nitrous oxide, please feel free to call our office and ask!


Dr. Kathleen McCafferty
Pediatric dentist, Bedford and Needham offices

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